Should you use fake cameras?

Safety Team
Updated May 5, 2021
5 min read


When it comes to security cameras, real is always best. A fake camera rarely fools a sophisticated burglar, and your attempt at deception could make your home an even more attractive theft target. Still not convinced? Let us explain how security cameras keep you safe and why fake versions tend to disappoint consumers. We'll also highlight a few select tasks real security cameras can tackle, which fake versions can never do.

How do Security Cameras Keep You Safe?

Security cameras give you the opportunity to protect your home and your possessions even when you're far away. With a camera, you can keep a watchful eye on everything that's important to you without performing physical patrols. But cameras do more than watch. They also tell criminals that you're aware and available to step in.

Cameras can show you when someone walks away with a package, and a camera could help keep that precious item on your porch. When a thief strolls up to your house to make away with your purchase, that shining camera could be a strong deterrent. Some thieves won't stop by taking something off your porch. They'll attempt to walk all the way into your home, and once there, they'll take almost everything they can grab.

A crime like this takes planning, and it's not uncommon for burglars to perform research before they get started. They might determine:

  • Your schedule. Knowing when you arrive and when you leave can help them nail down the timing of the theft.
  • Your valuables. Peering through your windows can help them determine where you place high-value items.
  • Your layout. They may pick an entrance point that seems to offer the most coverage from being seen.
  • Your neighborhood. When does activity die down on your street? That's an ideal time to stage a robbery.

Research suggests that burglars also look for evidence of cameras when they're plotting their crimes. They may look both inside and outside your home to determine if you're watching what they do. Installing cameras is an effective way to cut down on crime, and that's even true in the public sector. For example, Cornell University suggests that installing cameras in parking lots leads to a 51 percent decrease in crimes committed there. But thieves can't always tell someone is monitoring the information cameras capture. That could tempt you to invest in fake cameras, so you can offer the illusion of protection without the expense of installing equipment that works.

Why Don't Fake Cameras Always Work?

Much of the research done on cameras is conducted with public equipment. Researchers look at crime rates both before and after the cameras are installed, and they look for differences. One study illuminates a flaw that could persuade you to steer clear of the fake. In this study, researchers found that crime rates dipped in one area and not another. The big difference, they said, involved public perception. When people thought that no one was watching the camera feed, they kept committing crimes.

Many artificial security products are easy to distinguish from the real deal. Burglars look for:

  • Cheap materials. Delicate video equipment requires significant protection and it's easy to tell when a fake camera is made with cheap plastic.
  • Unusual wires. Some manufacturers use trailing materials to suggest that the item is plugged in, but the cords don't terminate in a normal spot.
  • Strange lights. Authentic cameras may have a red light that blinks from time to time. Fake ones flash all the time, or they don't blink at all.
  • No branding. Security companies plaster their names and logos on almost every product they sell. Fake companies just don't.

Savvy criminals may also know just where a camera should be placed. If you're installing cheap bits on your own, you may not put the product in the ideal spot. That's a giveaway that you're handling this security challenge on your own. Criminals are, by their very nature, bold people. If they doubt your system, they can knock or tap on your door or jiggle your window. If nothing happens, they'll know you're bluffing. When a criminal knows you have no protection, your house is wide open for theft or other crime. Installing a fake camera is incredibly risky, as you're leaving your home open to this issue.

What Makes Real Cameras Better?

Just as crooks can spot a fake camera, they can detect the real deal too. Professional installation, proper logos, correct wiring and ideal placement all indicate that your system is both robust and accurate. That might cause them to walk past your house, rather than trying to come inside. If you're dealing with a savvy burglar and they hope to commit a crime despite your cameras, the footage you get can help you to fight back. Home security cameras can deliver sharp, crisp images that can help law enforcement to fight crime.

For example, a career criminal in New Jersey was caught and charged with several burglaries in 2017 based, in part, on footage shot with a home security camera. In that community, homeowners with cameras can sign up to work with the police department, as the footage they provide can help officials to stop crime sprees. In a way, your investment in a security camera could make your entire community just a little bit safer. That's not a benefit you can get from a plastic replica.

A real camera can also help you cut down on security system costs. Many plans come with door and window alarms, and without cameras, you can be left wondering how to handle an alert that pops up on your phone. Experts suggest that most alerts are false. Without video, you won't know that. A camera tied to your security system helps you to see exactly what’s happening when an alert comes your way. Should you call the police? Should the fire department come to the rescue? Video gives you those answers.

Should You Take a Chance?

Every criminal is different. Just because one isn't fooled by fake cameras doesn't mean the next one won't be. If you have no security system at all, and you can't invest in protection, this might be better than nothing at all. You can buy fake cameras online, and some home improvement stores sell them too. It's best to place them in prominent, exterior areas. Popping them in front of your door, for example, could be a good deterrent. But in general, you'll need to invest in true security solutions delivered by an expert company to get full protection.

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The Safety Team is a group of experts that handle provider research, product reviews and recalls to make your home safety and security search as easy as 1-2-3.

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